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There is an instinct in the human heart
Which makes that all the fables it hath coined,
And strengthen it by beauty's right divine,
Which, like the hazle twig, in faithful hands,
But all things have within their hull of use
Of spiritual secrets to the ear
Of spirit; so, in whatsoe'er the heart
Hath fashioned for a solace to itself,
To make its inspirations suit its creed,
And from the niggard hands of falsehood wring
Its needful food of truth, there ever is
A sympathy with Nature, which reveals,
Not less than her own works, pure gleams of light
And earnest parables of inward lore.
As the immortal freshness of that grace
A youth named Rhocus, wandering in the wood, Saw an old oak just trembling to its fall,
And, feeling pity of so fair a tree,
He propped its gray trunk with admiring care,
That murmured "Rhocus!" "T was as if the leaves,
Stirred by a passing breath, had murmured it,
To feel the guilt-born earthliness of shame.
Then Rhocus, with a flutter at the heart, Yet, by the prompting of such beauty, bold, Answered: “What is there that can satisfy The endless craving of the soul but love? Give me thy love, or but the hope of that Which must be evermore my spirit's goal." After a little pause she said again, But with a glimpse of sadness in her tone, "I give it, Rhœcus, though a perilous gift; An hour before the sunset meet me here." And straightway there was nothing he could see But the green glooms beneath the shadowy oak,
And not a sound came to his straining ears
Now, in those days of simpleness and faith, Men did not think that happy things were dreams Because they overstepped the narrow bourne Of likelihood, but reverently deemed Nothing too wondrous or too beautiful To be the guerdon of a daring heart. So Rhocus made no doubt that he was blest,
And all along unto the city's gate
Earth seemed to spring beneath him as he walked, The clear, broad sky looked bluer than its wont, And he could scarce believe he had not wings, Such sunshine seemed to glitter through his veins Instead of blood, so light he felt and strange.
Young Rhœcus had a faithful heart enough, But one that in the present dwelt too much, And, taking with blithe welcome whatsoe'er
Chance gave of joy, was wholly bound in that,
Deemed it the world, and never looked beyond.
Some comrades who were playing at the dice,
The dice were rattling at the merriest, And Rhocus, who had met but sorry luck, Just laughed in triumph at a happy throw, When through the room there hummed a yellow bee That buzzed about his ear with down-dropped legs As if to light. And Rhocus laughed and said, Feeling how red and flushed he was with loss, "By Venus! does he take me for a rose? And brushed him off with rough, impatient hand. But still the bee came back, and thrice again Rhacus did beat him off with growing wrath. Then through the window flew the wounded bee, And Rhocus, tracking him with angry eyes, Saw a sharp mountain-peak of Thessaly
Against the red disc of the setting sun,